Issue 048 Author Interview: Jen Mierisch and “Jane and the Crows”

We’ve reached our final Issue 048 author interview, and what a journey it’s been! Our authors have told us so much about their inspirations and writing processes, and now Jen Mierisch is here to send us off with the answers to our questions about “Jane and the Crows.”

LSQ: “Jane and the Crows” has the feel of a folktale, where magic and crows are part of the everyday world. How did you decide to set a story here, in this beautifully rendered place?

Jen: This story sprang from a writing contest where I had to write a sequel to a fairy tale called “The Crows.” I had never read that tale before, but there was something intriguing about the man’s mysterious past, his wild dreams, and of course, the fateful crows. Jane didn’t get much of a role in the original story, so I decided she needed to star in the sequel. My first draft of the story bombed in the contest, but I went back and revised and added to it over the years.

I love fairy tales and folktales. It’s always fun to read the old Grimm’s Fairy Tales–their simple morality and classic characters are satisfying, and they’re always more gruesome than I remember. I love how brief they are, wrapping up everything neatly in a little package, like a sitcom, but with lots more witches and talking animals and revenge.
LSQ: Jane knows that something is wrong between her dreams and the crows waiting for her on the widow’s walk, but not how to fix it. What trepidation did she feel before going to the old woman?
Jen: I think she must have been pretty nervous, but she went anyway because she was desperate. When nothing rational can explain away your troubles, time to consult the wisewoman! I imagined this tale to be set, like most fairy tales, hundreds of years ago, before machines, when any scientific advance might have seemed like sorcery. Surely many “wisewomen” were simply skilled in herbal medicine, but it’s fun to imagine that some of them knew a thing or two about magic as well.
LSQ: John’s downfall seems not that he drank the potion, but that he didn’t take care of the families afterwards. Tell us more about the plotline of payment and retribution in your story.
Jen: If there’s one thing fairy tales are great at, it’s showing how choices have consequences. In this story, I definitely wanted to imply that the Moroccan merchant felt cheated by the extended days of price haggling, so he deliberately gave John a potion that would make him hallucinate. But then it had horrifying results, which left John so disturbed that he lied about what he’d done. So the crewmen lost not only their lives, but also the ability to have the true nature of their death be known. John could have redressed one of his crimes, by telling the truth later, but he chose not to, and so the crew came back as crows and haunted him until his death (and haunted his widow after his death). In the original “Crows” story, John drops dead very suddenly; I pictured his secret eating away at him until his tormented heart collapsed.
LSQ: Jane didn’t take any gold for herself. Was this at all important for her future happiness? Also, is there anything else you would like to share about this story or your current writing?
Jen: If I were Jane, having finally heard her husband’s story, I’d be thoroughly spooked, and very motivated to make sure the gold got distributed as fairly as possible 🙂  Jane didn’t really need the gold herself, since, having married a merchant, she already had a house and was well taken care of. What she really needed was to discover the truth and break the curse, after which she was free to move on with her own life. So, even though she didn’t bring the haunting onto herself, she used her own agency to seek answers and to remedy past wrongs, making her the hero of the tale.

If you liked this tale, I have another fairy tale up at Fudoki Magazine called “The Clever Chef“! Thanks for reading!